by Lisa Draski
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Carter is a lovely character study written and directed by Ryan Andrew Balas. Though the story revolves around a vow Jebediah Sminch (Mark Robert Ryan) made and is on the verge of fulfilling, the film is more about his girlfriend Carter (the enchanting and talented Julia Porter Howe) and how she deals with the ramifications of that vow.
When he was 17, Jeb swore to himself that if he wasn’t married by the time he was 23, he would kill himself when he turned 25. When we meet Jeb, it’s only a few days before his 25th birthday, and he’s in love and happier than ever. Carter knows about Jeb’s plans and tries desperately to understand, but Jeb has a hard time even explaining it to himself. He tells her, “It’s like leaving the conversation right when you’ve just told the funniest joke.”
The melancholy mood is set and enhanced by the haunting score and the alternately cool and warm cinematography. Balas has a great eye for composition and creates some stunning shots. The viewer is immediately drawn into the captivating world of Jeb and Carter. There is a wonderful use of locations that are vibrant and familiar. A lot of the film consists of conversations between Jeb and Carter, and this is where it really shines. Balas’ dialogue is fresh, smart, insightful, and often very funny.
Some scenes drag on a bit too long, and there are some issues with the sound (fuzziness and unevenness at times), but overall the effect of Carter is powerful and moving. The film is also incredibly charming with wonderful performances from Howe and Ryan. Howe is especially excellent. She’s breathtaking and heartbreaking and brings such a naturalness and sincerity to her character that‘s exciting to watch.
When talking about human existence and if anything or anyone really matters, Carter asks Jeb, “What about if you just reach one person?“ What a fitting sentiment for a beautiful film that’s sure to do just that and more.
Lisa Draski Lisa Draski is a freelance writer and film scholar living in Chicago.
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